Washington State University Tri-Cities graduate student Aaron Pelly made the decision to donate his relief check to support those in the process of or who are hoping to renew their participation in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

When considering what to do with his relief funding, he saw an email that detailed resources for and ways to support DACA students amid this unprecedented time from the WSU Tri-Cities Dreamers Club. Pelly decided that his money would be best spent supporting students that may not have resources to help them continue their studies or maintain their legal status.

“I am in a position where I could do this – provide support for students that otherwise might not have the resources to be able to eat, pay rent and renew for the DACA program,” Pelly said. “My wife and I have a stable income. We wanted to use these funds to help support individuals who are really struggling. There are many who have lost their jobs and have nowhere else to turn. Many may not have the resources to afford renewing their DACA application amid the pandemic.”

DACA was established by President Obama in 2012 to grant a form of temporary protection from deportation known as “deferred action” to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, resided in the U.S. since June 2007 and met other requirements.

On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced an end to the DACA program, leading to several states, including Washington, filing a challenge to that decision. In the meantime, students are currently still able to renew their applications through the program.

With Pelly’s donation, a new fund was set up to support the application fees for DACA students, which cost an average of $500 per application. Pelly and his wife are donating $2,000 to support the cost of applications for DACA students.

Pelly completes his master’s program in environmental science at WSU Tri-Cities this spring. His wife is a local school teacher. Both know the value of education and how the funds will help support individuals trying to achieve a great life for themselves and their families.

“That is four students that could renew their applications,” he said. “There are a lot of people suffering right now. This is one small thing that we can do to help make a large impact for a few people.”

Pelly initially didn’t want to be named for this article, however, he recognizes that his story could help encourage others to donate their relief funding to those in need, if they aren’t struggling.

“This wasn’t even my idea,” he said. “I saw something on Twitter that gave me the idea about how these are funds from the government that are supposed to support hardship. This is a way to help those who are struggling and provide some security for students that are dealing with many other hardships at the moment.”

Yaslin Torres-Pena, WSU Tri-Cities Dreamers Club president, said having these types of funds available at WSU Tri-Cities for DACA students is a huge relief for students and their families.

“I think it brings comfort to DACA students who need to renew or are planning to renew, but don’t have the funds to do so,” she said. “Not only does it bring comfort to DACA students, but it also brings comfort to all undocumented students and allies.”

Torres-Pena said when Pelly reached out to her to help get a fund created to support students looking to renew their DACA application, she was shocked in a good way.

“I knew WSU Tri-Cities was filled with amazing people, but I just never thought this would happen,” she said. “The club and I will forever be grateful to Aaron. Our club has worked really hard to provide a safe and accepting space for students, so hopefully these DACA renewal funds will reach students most in need.”

Individuals interested in donating to the fund should contact Jaime Heppler, WSU Tri-Cities executive director of advancement and community engagement, at jaime.heppler@wsu.edu or 509-372-7207.